It’s no secret that the esports industry is surpassing new milestones at breakneck speeds. Recently, Astralis became the first esports team to go public, and G2 esports received significant non-endemic investment.
The success of competitive gaming is a global phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean its growth is equal across all regional playing fields. One noteworthy investor made waves with his feelings towards owning and operating an esports team on Fox Sports’ Fair Game.
“In aggregate, it’s a good business,” said billionaire investor Mark Cuban. “Is it growing? Yes. But domestically here in the United States, it’s an awful business.”
How bad can it really be? An industry-wide report from Newzoo predicted that North America will have accounted for over US$409 million in revenue for the esports industry in 2019. This would position North America as the largest esports market globally.
On the other hand, Cuban went on to mention that investing in this business isn’t such a bad idea for some of its international counterparts.
“Being in Asia, there’s money there. If you’re in Korea, there’s tons of money there, it’s real,” he said. “If you’re in China, there’s money there.”
So, why does Cuban insist that esports organizations are an inferior pursuit in America? Why does the industry often look to Asia? Let’s break down how this market is unique in the global esports landscape.
Despite accounting for less revenue than North America, Asia makes up the largest share of esports viewership in the world. In fact, the same Newzoo report states that the Asia-Pacific market holds 57% of the global esports enthusiast population. In addition to sheer numbers, this audience possesses key traits that bode well for the popularity of esports.
“The top esports markets in the region, China and Korea, have a higher degree of cultural homogeneity compared to North America, and this leads to better market saturation and faster adoption of esports titles,” Alexander Champlain, manager of esports research at Niko Partners told Gaming Street.
Additionally, each respective market comes with vastly different platform preferences.
“North America has been a console-dominated market for decades, with PC gaming serving a more niche group of consumers,” says Champlain. “Asia has favored PC gaming in the form of [internet cafes] and is leading the world in the move to mobile gaming and mobile esports.”
Pushing mobile forward
Asia’s consumer behavior has accelerated the growth of mobile gaming, and mobile esports are no exception. Two of North America’s biggest competitive intellectual properties (IP’s) have seen wildly successful jumps to mobile with the help of Asian giant Tencent Holdings Limited.
In fact, Call of Duty (CoD) Mobile and PUBG Mobile have both taken off at breakneck speed. CoD Mobile managed to earn over 148 million downloads within its first month of release, greatly surpassing PUBG Mobile and rival mobile title Fortnite in their respective release months.
While it may be an inherently accessible platform, Asia’s fondness for competitive mobile gaming has been a driving force in the global market. Mobile gaming has become the largest international player base by far, beating out PC and console gamers combined. According to Niko Partners, mobile gamers reached a population of 2.53 billion in 2019.
Additionally, a recent study from GoldenCasinoNews.com states that mobile gaming was the highest source of revenue for the games industry in 2019. Unsurprisingly, China lead the way, accounting for USD$18 billion in profit.
Mobile is arguably the most significant platform in gaming, and Asia is proving to be an exemplary market in this area of esports.